i’m bored of my bullsh*t defenses. I’m shedding my bark.

Posted on June 22nd, 2011

I know I come across as open. Few defenses. Willing to discuss my bowel habits and my sadness with tens of thousands of strangers. But I’ve had to realise lately that this brazen openness is actually a defense. A boring one. For me, anyway.

by Sarah Hermans

Do you tend to point out your faults loudly when you’re nervous? Because you figure it’s better to get in first, before someone points them out for you? Yeah. Me too. Openess can be like that. It works like this: Before you challenge me on my boundaries, before you hold a mirror up to my intimacy issues, how about I barrage you with my brazeness, then you won’t have a leg to stand on!

Well, this approach has kind of got stale lately. It’s not serving me too well. When I do it now I cringe.

As it happens I read on DailyOm last week a little metaphor about trees shedding their bark. It’s fitting:

Trees grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In the same way, we create boundaries and develop defenses to protect ourselves and then, at a certain point, we outgrow them. If we don’t allow ourselves to shed our protective layer, we can’t expand to our full potential.

Perfect!! So true! Of course boundaries and defenses serve a purpose: Trees need their protective bark to enable the delicate process of growth and renewal to unfold without threat. Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves can safely heal and unfold.

But here’s the kicker:

our growth also depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need.

This, I guess we have to do ourselves. Trees just do it naturally. We have to shed to be able to expand and grow. The first stage with this kind of stuff is always to feel that cringe…that eughhhh! feeling. This means the bark is getting gnarly and tight. And we’re ready to shed.

Actually shedding is more difficult. I think it occurs a little like it does for the tree – as we grow, expand our thinking/consciousness – it just drops off.

I like this analogy because it posits our defenses as necessary. To a point. This makes the shedding process easier. We don’t have to berate ourselves for being defensive…just glad we’re now mature enough to move on from it.

Of course, shedding means standing there naked for a bit. Bigger, expanded. But naked. Until the new bark grows around us. I want my new bark to be less rigid, more stretchy and truly transparent. You?

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  • Mel

    I really love this Sarah. It fits perfectly for me at this point in my life. My skin is now super stretchy after shedding a very solid protective layer and because of that I have developed deeper friendships with people close to me and a deeper empathy. I have done more growing in the past two years than I did in the previous ten. I hoe you begin to feel comfortable in your new skin.


  • Adam Cordner

    This is good stuff Sarah!


  • Brett

    Hi Sarah,
    Back again, I love the analogy. I must admit your vulnerability is endearing but as you say your transparency is also a strength. Keep up the good work.


  • Vinny

    …dont try, just be yourself, whatever it is, whatever our age….true friends remain because they understand, the circle will remain tight.


  • Mia

    Ooooh, this is particularly appropriate considering my nestling into the single life again for the first time in years. I’m growing like a tree, shedding the old… interested to see what grows. Marvelous, Sarah, just marvelous.

    I’m a bit the same by the way. I’m loud and I swear and talk about sex a lot, but only because its easier for people to know me as the loud girl than the insecure girl who is scared of intimacy. I’m growing into my new softness a bit, it doesnt quite fit yet but it fits better than my old constricting bark. To use your metaphor!


    Mia Reply:

    P.s. I just realized the winter solstice was last night. Symbolically an awesome time for rebirth. If you believe in that sort of thing!


    Jane Reply:

    My first thought Mia. Glad someone picked up on this!


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Yes, we’re cruising to Spring!


  • trace

    Bingo! I asked this morning for more serendipity in my life and here’s #2 for the day. Ha ha! I’ve used tree growth metaphorically in my art for years and once again I am in a process of re-barking – slooowly, tentatively growing new bark that is less defensive and thorny. Scarey, necessary and exciting!
    Thx Sarah


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Mine’s thorny, too!


  • http://sweetlittlealicebluegown.blogspot.com aliceblue

    Oh Sarah you give me things to think about… I shed a layer recently and let others see the vulnerable me who needs a bit of TLC. It was odd but not as scarey as I thought it would be.
    I like your metaphor.


  • http://www.MyMindCoach.com.au Kylie Ryan

    Love this Sarah. And love the Quote from DailyOm.

    I have found a simple and useful way of shedding is to write down all the beliefs, values, ideas and behaviours that you want to let go of and then replace each one with something empowering that fits the new expanded you, then you can practice your new expanded self through visualisation, meditation and good old-fashioned real world action! :-)

    Good luck with your shedding and renewal!


  • Jennie

    I gave up apologising and making excuses for myself along time ago now. What I lost in friends (family included), I made up for in self respect.


    Paul Reply:

    Perfectly said Jennie and so true.


  • http://www.livingsavvy.com.au Jo – living savvy

    The analogy of shedding bark and then renewing is wonderful. I had an insightful conversation with a psychologist who I touch base with to finetune my mind and soul from time to time on how the defense systems that we build stay put long after we need them to protect us and will continue to spring up to protect us but instead of doing good they hold us back. To renew it is necessary to recognise what bark we need to shed and let it go.


  • August

    This resonates sooo much for me Sarah. V sick of making jokes where I’m the punch line – and yet it’s become such a habit. At least now I’m conscious of it. There was a time I wasn’t!


  • http://the-dame.com The Dame

    This is so fantastic, I was just thinking to myself that I need to talk less to my boyfriend about my imperfections, he probably wouldnt have noticed them in the first place if I hadnt said anything!


  • Jo

    I really love this piece Sarah – thanks for sharing. I completely identify with it, and know I need to ‘shed some bark’ but wow… it can be so hard to do this and the thought of being emotionally naked is kinda terrifying.
    I am going to come back to this post for motivation over the next few days, thanks.


  • dan_hillier

    Another great post Miss Wilson (it is Miss right?)…

    Thanks for sharing. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of self discovery and with that comes some shedding of the outer layers, but also a dextoxing from the inside out. I love this.

    Thanks for your transparency, it’s inspiring.


  • Nadia

    Love it!! Thank you for explaining the way you did, particularly the part where you say defenses are necessary, to a point. Allowing all things to have their place.

    Love the tree metaphor. I love watching tree’s everywhere and seeing how they imitate life. I love how some trees can look like people dancing or hugging.

    Thanks Sarah,
    awesome and right on time ;p


  • Nell

    Wow! I soooo do the same thing & I hear my voice doing the usual spiel & its so boring! I’m well over that way of being! I’ve had a week of very similar discussions – & not just discussions but waaaay more awareness of bark I need to shed! Thanks again Sarah!


  • Rachel

    Oh My lordy this is me, to a tee, more articulate and smarter and prettier version but me nonetheless, I too love the life experiences have bought but with happiness comes pain.


  • http://www.mikewilde.com mike wilde

    Bon Voyage !!